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The Screening Process That Protects Your Children and Church

The Screening Process That Protects Your Children and Church

The screening process for paid staff, a volunteer, or a leadership position is a vital piece of your church’s overall safety plan and includes seven key elements. The screening process functions as a deterrent for would-be offenders, eliminates easy access to children, and brings to the surface need-to-know information about a person’s character, commitment, and history working with children and youth. 

Screening takes time, and time is valuable, however consider these points when evaluating time for screening. 

  • Less than 10% of child sexual abusers are criminally prosecuted, meaning 90% will have no red flags or marks in their history when undergoing a check
  • 38% of repeat sexual offenses take place in areas other than where the previous offense was committed

The screening process applies to adults 18 years and older, assumes applicants are applying to work directly with children on a consistent basis, and the evaluation is taking place for paid staff, a volunteer, or a leadership position.

The Seven Elements of the Screening Process

1. The Written Application lays the foundation for the other six elements and identifies the vital information required to make an informed decision about granting access to children.

The application should always be 100% completed. If an applicant is unwilling to complete the required information, this is a red flag.

Applications at a minimum should include the following information:

  • Name and any aliases 
  • Verified social security number
  • Driver’s license state and number
  • Current phone number, address, or past addresses if they have been at their current location for less than a year
  • Personal email
  • Educational history and work experience with kids/youth
  • Family information
  • Current/past church associations (if they’re in children’s ministry or a church-sponsored youth group)
  • Criminal history
  • Signed waivers for background and social media checks

2. The Background Check is a vital element of the overall comprehensive screening process. Alone it’s not a silver bullet and can often lead to a false sense of security. If budget is a constraint ask the applicant to cover the cost (approximately between $10 and $20) for their check. It’s a good way to gauge their level of commitment and rarely does anyone refuse.

Background checks do not include family or civil cases about child abuse, arrest history, or other legal complaints. They do not call out federal or criminal cases in other states.

3. The Social Media Check is a valuable resource for learning more in-depth information about an individual. It helps to identify a good fit and provides information left off the written application or during the interview.

Information shared socially appears to be unfiltered and more representative of an individual’s character, preferences, and skills. It may also uncover additional talents not mentioned in other evaluation activities. 

Social media is new for most organizations. Quick tips to get the most from your social media check:

  1. Include a social media “Release of Information” form with the written application. It authorizes the organization to obtain and verify applicant information as it pertains to social media activity.
  2. Never ask for an applicant’s password. It’s now illegal in several states and creates a risk of violating the federal Stored Communications Act.
  3. Focus only on information that is public and posted by the applicant.
  4. Complete the social media check after the face-to-face interview. It’s better to form a first impression in person rather than via social media.